Henna artists tell of sleepless nights and caffeine fixes ahead of Eid
For Shamin Zubaid Bee, Eid is synonymous with sleepless nights.
Ms Zubaid Bee is one of hundreds of henna artists in Abu Dhabi. During Eid Al Adha and Eid Al Fitr, you can see their work painted on thousands of hands but the art is short-lived.
The dye from henna can fade within days so application must be done last minute. For three days and three nights, before Eid, women crowd henna parlours and pull out their phones to show artists the latest trends on Instagram or point at sample designs posted on salon walls.
Ms Zubaid Bee and her colleagues sleep no more than two or three hours a night in the run-up to Eid.
“We are drinking tea and washing our faces to keep our energy up,” said Ms Bee, who works at Al Abeer Henna and Beauty Saloon in Baniyas. “And we are talking to each other and with customers, for when you are talking sleep is not coming.”
Five days before Eid, drawings of a dozen new henna patterns appear on the walls of Al Abeer.
Three days before, and the women begin to mass make batches of the fragrant paste in buckets. They will use 20 kilogrammes of paste, the equivalent of three weeks worth of henna during 'off-season'.
Doors opened from 7am on Saturday morning and will not close again until Tuesday at dawn, the first morning of Eid.
“There is a point when there is no place in the salon because henna is a tradition, mashallah, that brings people in,” says Fatima Moinul Haque, whose helps manage the saloon owned by her mother. “Everyone is on caffeine.”
In the city of Abu Dhabi, it was a different story. A nine-day Eid holiday in the public sector had caused an exodus.
Frankincense wafted through high-rise hallways outside henna salons but the usual Eid customers never came.
“This year has been very bad for business,” said Raufia Ibrahim, a henna artist and beautician at Khalidiyah’s Blanche Beauty Saloon and Henna with 27 years experience. “We have been suffering for eight months, and especially the last four. People have moved away.”
“Last year, al hamdullilah, we were very busy at Eid. Last year, mashallah, you couldn’t even sit.”
The introduction of VAT has caused customers to quarrel with beauticians on the cost of treatments and cut back altogether. Many clients are also believed to have moved away.
All three henna salons on the mezzanine floor of the Shaheen Supermarket high-rise were empty. Has Abu Dhabi reached salon saturation point?
“Inshallah it will be better,” said Ms Ibrahim.
Her friend Heena Ashok nodded. “Henna is happiness. And after Eid, it is wedding season.”
And as every woman knows, a wedding brings henna and more sleepless nights at the salon.